‘SOUR’ GOWER’S SWEET ON AD­DICKS

Swans’ pain dims

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE - By Jamie Holt

AS MUCH as he tried, Mark Gower ad­mits he strug­gled to break into a smile while sat watch­ing Swansea col­lect their first ma­jor tro­phy in Fe­bru­ary.

It was be­cause he knew his time in South Wales was num­bered – with a loan move to Charlton in the pipe­line – but also be­cause he felt alien­ated from the club he helped drag from the Cham­pi­onship to the verge of their Cap­i­tal One Cup suc­cess last sea­son.

That 5-0 ham­mer­ing of Brad­ford brought Wem­b­ley mem­o­ries flood­ing back for Gower, who joined the Swans as Cham­pi­onship new boys in 2008 from Southend.

In 2011 he came off the bench to help in­spire a 4-2 play-off fi­nal vic­tory over Read­ing, se­cur­ing Pre­mier League football for the first time in the club’s his­tory.

That day, though, was also the cul­mi­na­tion of a decade of dream­ing for the mid­fielder who left Tot­ten­ham in 2001 with­out mak­ing a top flight ap­pear­ance.

But af­ter be­ing told by Swansea boss Michael Lau­drup he was no longer needed at the start of last term, the good times seemed a dis­tant mem­ory.

“I was in the squad that trav­elled to Wem­b­ley so I was in­volved in the day which was nice, but I knew my time was up by then,” said Gower, who joined Charlton on a per­ma­nent deal in the sum­mer.

“As much as you try for the other lads, it’s not the same when you’re not in­volved – it was night and day com­pared to the play-off fi­nal. I tried my hard­est to be pleased for the lads, but it wasn’t a great day for me per­son­ally.

“I had four of the best years of my ca­reer at Swansea, they were in­cred­i­bly suc­cess­ful, we got to the Pre­mier League and I ful­filled my dream.

“It was frus­trat­ing the way the fi­nal year ended. I just never got a chance, the man­ager ba­si­cally made his mind up be­fore he came to the club, within the first cou­ple of weeks he said I could find a new club.

Strug­gles

“I started at Tot­ten­ham and made two ap­pear­ances, both in the League Cup. I was striv­ing from that point for the rest of my ca­reer to get back there and play at the top level.

“When I do re­tire and I look back I can say I’ve made 20-odd Pre­mier League ap­pear­ances, it would have been chew­ing at me if I didn’t achieve that.”

Only one of his 21 Pre­mier League ap­pear­ances came last sea­son, an il­lus­tra­tion of the strug­gles he en­dured to­wards the end of his stay at the Lib­erty Sta­dium.

He joined Charlton on a short-term loan deal just 18 days af­ter Swansea saw off Brad­ford at Wem­b­ley.

He made six ap­pear­ances, win­ning four and draw­ing two, and it went some way to­wards staving off rel­e­ga­tion for the Ad­dicks. It also con­vinced boss Chris Pow­ell to take a punt on the 34-year-old Lon­doner this sum­mer on a one-year deal.

“It was only a cou­ple of days into March that I knew some­thing was in place,” added fa­ther-of-three Gower.

“I had a few days to get fit, then show the man­ager what I could do, but then Andy Hughes got in­jured and I ended up play­ing six games and we went un­beaten.

“I’m hop­ing to carry on for an­other cou­ple of years but I wanted to get my fam­ily set­tled be­cause my chil­dren are com­ing to an im­por­tant age.

“We had a great time in Wales but we al­ways knew we were com­ing back.”

So what would be a suc­cess­ful sea­son for Charlton?

“You can look a fool try­ing to pre­dict the Cham­pi­onship,” con­tin­ued Gower. “But a top-half fin­ish would be great con­sid­er­ing we have one of the low­est bud­gets in the Cham­pi­onship.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

FRESH START: Mark Gower at Charlton. Inset: Swansea pa­rade the League Cup

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